Sunday, 19 December 2021

Winter in the High Country- Part 2

 Continuing on from Part One...

I was up early the next morning to check on the weather. Our camp site on the edge of Lake Pukaki was shrouded in thick fog, which, while not great for camping, was a positive sign that the hoar frost was still in residence and continuing to form back in Twizel, 15kms away.

By the time I was ready to head down the road to check on the frost the fog had once again withdrawn down to the south end of Lake Pukaki leaving mirror reflections and a stunning scene behind in its wake.

The fog swirled about in heavy drifts as I reached the Pukaki canal gates on the main highway. 

I stopped for a few quick photos just as the fog disappeared leaving behind frost covered bushes and blue skies. It wouldn't be long before the ice disappeared here as the sun's weak warmth started melting it right before my eyes. I hurried on down the road, fingers crossed that this wasn't going to be a short-lived hoar frost. 

Not a chance! It's hard to believe but just around that corner in the photo above and near Lake Wardell, it was once again thick fog. I pulled into the lake- actually a small pond- where freedom camping is allowed and was surprised to see that someone was indeed camping there in their caravan beside the frozen pond. Brrrr!

I drove around the lake and took a few more photos before heading on towards Twizel, I was keen to get to my favourite ponds. 

Lake Wardell
But not before a quick stop at the Twizel River.

Twizel River
And then onto Wairepo Arm, one of the two ponds on either side of the main highway just south of Twizel.

I drove into another world; dry, still & crisp and not a person in sight. Every branch of every tree was coated in thick white ice crystals. What a magical winter wonderland it was. 

I followed the 4WD track around the edge of the lake until I reached a favourite spot. I'm usually taking reflection photos here-

Winter reflections
...or the autumn colours. This is what I love about the Mackenzie, every season is special in its own way and every season has fabulous scenery. It's a photographer's paradise!

Back on the main road, the fog was very dense so I decided to give Kellands Pond a miss and drove from Wairepo Arm around to boat harbour on Lake Ruataniwha.

Lake Ruataniwha
Just after I arrived 3 or 4 vehicles pulled in behind me and disgorged a dozen or so photographers who peeled off into the gloom looking for the perfect shot. Probably a photo workshop or photography club from out of the area on a hoar frost photo shoot. Every now & then as I moved along the waterfront I'd spot a wooly hat or scarf covered face peering out from a bush beside the lake. 

Boat Harbour
But the last thing I expected to see while out chasing a hoar frost was a person swimming in the lake! And in a bikini too (see black dot under the willow). And I'm sure the last thing she expected to see was a bunch of photographers arrive to take photos!

Lake Ruataniwha
I spoke to her & she told me she swims in Lake Tekapo everyday (which would probably be colder as it's an alpine lake fed directly by snow melt). I asked if it was warmer under the water & she replied 'not really'. It was on her bucket list to swim in a hoar frost so she'd driven down with her husband who was standing nearby, ready with a big thick towel. 

I took a few more photos around the lake before leaving the photographers behind and then carried on along the top of the ridge stopping for a few more photos looking down on the lake.

The fog was getting thicker by the minute though, moving in and swallowing up my wonderland scenes.

I drove on, along the canals to Loch Cameron and found another favourite scene fog bound.

Next were a stop at the Ben Ohau Station ponds alongside Glen Lyon Road; they were frozen with frosty icicles everywhere.

I pulled into our cottages- the guests now gone- and checked out the garden. I'm sure the log burners would have earnt their keep over the last few days.

Night Sky Cottages
It looked like Spaghetti Junction at the tussocks.

Well, I thought to myself, we weren't going to de-camp and return to our park-up site beside one of the cottages until the next morning, but a plan was forming in my head. I headed back up the highway... 

SH8 near Twizel Airport
...back into civilization, blue sky...

Lake Pukaki & Hayman Road
...and wispy fog...

..past the lake pond that was now showing signs of freezing and pulled up in front of the 5th-wheeler, calling to David as soon as I stepped out of the ute.

And that was how he found himself at the dump station in the middle of a hoar frost! Something he's keen not to repeat.  I figured if we were back in town & all set up, I'd be able to head off early the next morning instead of having to bring the rig back to town before I could head out again.

This fog wasn't letting up & this frost was going nowhere.

To be continued...


  1. Fab photos as usual. Hoar frost is on my wish list but not swimming in it! Merry Xmas cheers J&C

    1. Haha! Not for me either! Hope you had a great holiday break & are enjoying this lovely hot summer.

  2. Some nice winter photos! I love Twizel but I haven't been there in winter, yet.

    1. Thanks, yes winter in Twizel is certainly an experience & a half :)

  3. Really enjoy following your travels. Im not sure how I found your blog but its so interesting. I am in Roxburgh so Ive learned of many places nearby to explore from your adventures.

    1. Thanks for your message & I'm pleased you're enjoying the blog. There are lots of hidden gems in Central, my fav district! Well fav equal with the Mackenzie :)


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